Excavation Summary

The following is a summary of the excavations led by Hereford Sixth Form College and Community Heritage and Archaeology Consultancy between the 11th and 31st July 2016.  At least three phases of activity at the site were identified.  For a more detailed account of the excavations you can download the archaeological report from the Downloads Page.

Phase 1

The earliest phase of activity relates to the industrial use of the ditched enclosure.  The industrial activity is marked by a charcoal rich clay trample or working surface that was present across the entirety of the excavation, sealing the underlying natural gravels.  Included within this horizon was a multitude of ceramic materials including Samian wares from the 1st and 2nd century AD.

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Fragment of Samian retrieved from the charcoal rich horizon relating to industrial activity at the site. Copyright Community Heritage & Archaeology Consultancy

Of particular note were the numerous fragments of fired clay, including fragments bonded with iron slag indicating the presence of at least one bloomer furnace within the vicinity together with other kiln structures.

Contemporary to this phase was the construction of a south-facing wall of a rectangular building oriented roughly east-west.  Only the foundations of this wall remain.  The foundations had been constructed in four phases; the linear foundation trench cut the industrial trample horizon and natural gravel subsoil, into which an initial layer of large sandstone angular cut blocks were placed on edge.  This was overlain by coarse gravel and then capped by a cemented fine pebble layer.  It was onto this foundation that a substantial stone wall would have been constructed, bonded with mortar, of which only the rubble core remains as a dump.  The scale of the structure suggests it could have supported an additional storey above the ground floor.

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Photograph depicting the stages in construction of the south-facing wall (horizon 060 represents the rubble core of the wall whereas 099 represents the industrial trample layer into which the wall was constructed). Copyright Community Heritage & Archaeology Consultancy

Phase 2

The second phase of activity is marked by a continued accumulation of industrial waste materials across the site to a depth of c.30cm, during which phase the material had sealed and butted against the south-facing wall of the building.

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View of the kiln when first excavated in 2014 detailing the remains of the pilasters and the collapsed shelf at the base (scale is 0.50m). Copyright Community Heritage & Archaeology Consultancy

It is into this accumulation of industrial trample that the pottery kiln, first recorded in 2014 and dated by C14 to c.140AD was constructed.  The construction involved the digging of a circular pit (for the kiln) and trench stretching c.5m to the south (the flu) into the industrial trample horizons and natural subsoil.  The stoke hole to the kiln was constructed of sandstone bonded with clay and capped by a stone lintel, the kiln along with the supporting pilasters had been moulded using clay.  Due to the small size of the kiln (c.0.80m diameter) no central column was required to support the interior shelf, instead it rested on the protruding pilasters.

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The kiln, flue and partially excavated ash pit viewed from the south. Copyright Community Heritage & Archaeology Consultancy

Contemporary with the kiln was a pit to one side of the flue.  Although it was initially thought to represent a waster’s pit, it would appear that it was established as an ash pit, providing a location for the ash to be deposited following the firing of the kiln.

Following the final firing (c.140AD) the kiln, flue and pit were deliberately closed and sealed using stacked stone roof tiles.  This may indicate an intention to possibly return to the site and re-use of the kiln or alternatively it may mark a change in use of the site.  Either way a great deal of care was taken in sealing the kiln and may indicate pride in work by the individuals involved.

Phase 3

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Artists interpretation of the 2nd-3rd century AD farm/villa based on the geophysical, archaeological remains and artefacts uncovered. Copyright Community Heritage & Archaeology Consultancy

The final phase relating to the Roman period was the extension of the building first begun in the late-1st/early-2nd century AD.  By this date (mid-2nd century AD) it would appear that the site had ceased to be industrial in nature and became primarily domestic, serving as either a high status farm or small villa.  This phase of construction is represented by the construction of a west and probably the east wing of the building depicted on the geophysical survey below.  Only the west wing was excavated in 2016, but its form, unlike the first stage construction was smaller and unlikely to have supported an additional storey. The construction of the two wings transformed the building into a complex enclosing a courtyard.

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Results of the geophysical survey undertaken by University of Sheffield Landscape Archaeology Masters student Graham Lantz in 2014.  The dark lines represent the buried walls of the courtyard structure built by the mid-2nd century AD.  The lighter line represents the location of the enclosure ditch. Copyright Community Heritage & Archaeology Consultancy

From the artefacts retrieved, occupation at the site appears to have come to an end by the late 4th century AD.  At this stage the roof and walls of the structure were deliberately dismantled and the site abandoned.

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